Monday, December 22, 2014

The importance of a good title

Many a new novel has sunk without a trace because it has a dull, unmemorable title.
Susan Hill, Howards End is on the Landing

My wife volunteered to become the librarian at the condominium complex where we are living in Florida. What this means in practice is that I do 90 percent of the work of sorting, organizing and shelving,  while she gets 90 percent of the credit.

The books on our shelves have all been donated by residents, and the most popular authors clearly are   James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel and a handful of others. While trying to find room for all these books on our shelves I have noticed how dull so many of the titles are. Steel has written Matters of the Heart, Remembrance, Bittersweet, Silent Honor and Sisters. Nora Roberts wrote Change of Heart and Happy Endings. Patterson did Double Cross, Honeymoon and Swimsuit.

Contrast these titles with some by less prominent authors: What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin, The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf, The Patchwork Marriage by Jane Green and The Light Between the Oceans by M.L. Stedman.

I do not question Susan Hill's conclusion about the importance of a good title, but good titles do seem  to be much more important for beginning writers and writers who have never gotten high on best-seller lists. When you have reached the stature of a James Patterson, Nora Roberts or Danielle Steel, apparently, titles don't matter so much. It is the author's name on the cover that sells the book. I do wonder, however, how fans of these authors can remember which of their books they have read and which they haven't.

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